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Friday, November 05, 2004


Category: Professional.

I. Thoughts on Usability.

Use white space to your advantage.
Follow the Google model.
Simple homepage, fast loading speed, and a prominent search box.
A white background, lots of open space, a good (preferably) light colored logo.

Don't use drop-downs. Use plain html links.
An example. Instead of giving the user options to choose one or more drop-downs - give them links to all the options and let them decide.
Why is it so? The answer — people find it easier to click - rather than select, or click and then select.

Why is Google so easy to surf?
Google doesn't bother the user with drop-downs, check boxes etc.
Everything is HTML. (Gmail is Javascript).

Make it easy for the user to decide what to choose.
Keep the pages uncluttered. Instead of showing a lot of stuff, limit it to the one that would be the most clickable.
(It's debatable, I suppose from a user's perspective, this works).
If a user finds what he is looking for there are chances that the most probable click would be to that link itself, instead of trying to experiment.

There are ways of deciding.
A first time user may surf, a compulsive shopper would directly go to the link of interest. An inquisitive person may like to read a review.
Different search results can be set to be shown for different types of surfers.

The biggest challenge for a search site is the algorithm of the webspider. Once the spider works, everything else follows.

Always give links back to the homepage from the top and bottom of all the other pages of the website. Use the Logo to your advantage. Always link the logo back to the homepage with an appropriate 'Alt' tag. This will help in Search Engine Optimization.

Link popularity is an important factor for a shopping website.
Use the link: operator in Google to find the number of websites linking to your site. Check link:www.epinions.com, link:www.bizrate.com

An easy way to check your competition and also to find related websites is to do a related: search on Google.
For example if you want to find websites similar to Price Grabber enter the search string as related:www.pricegrabber.com

Images should show up on the left-hand side of the page. The best way is to enclose images and text together in a table format. All images should have alt tags that describe it.

People read from the top to bottom, and left to right, so instead of an image appearing above or below a text, it should appear alongwith the text.
An image on the left hand side and then the text for it.

Give links to all the important pages from the top and bottom of your page. Give the user a chance to navigate.

A way to think for the future would be to work on a shopping toolbar/deskbar. Most of the shopping websites have a toolbar that rests on the browser. An innovation here would be to think of a deskbar, if I may call it that. It brings shopping search to your desktop, not just your browser. I'm not able to think of an exact explanation for it.

II. More on Usability

Before doing a usability analysis - ask yourself

What do I want to do with my site?
Who would be visiting your site? Surfers whom we've got to convert to Buyers. You need users who buy, so that you can make money.

What's the business model?
Do we also go in for paid advertising?

How about contextual advertising? Something on the lines of Google's AdSense?
For paid advertising and contextual advertising, the webspider should be capable of showing relevant links.

And now start your Usability analysis-

Get them to your site. Search Engine Optimization.
Make them surf. Links
Help them navigate. Buy, Compare, Homepage, Contact, and Feedback links.
Let them read. Use white space. Keep the paragraphs short.
Guide them properly. Provide links.
Now get your Shopping page and catch the user. Compare, Buy, Shop links.
Allow them to make a choice.
Invite them to try your paid services.